This article builds on the premise that there are two periods in the history of racial capitalism during which women’s reproductive labor power has been engineered for profit: the four hundred years of chattel slavery in the Americas, and our biocapitalist present. Black feminist production—including theory, history, and fiction written in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—constitutes the principal philosophy of history adequate to the task of revealing this particular feature of the gendered afterlife of slavery and, too, of imagining alternatives to it. Black feminist production should thus be recognized as part and parcel of a long black radical tradition that stretches back to W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, the text that initially opened up consideration of slave women’s breeding as “work” and of slave women’s protest against reproduction in bondage as an expression of their resistance to slavery. In allowing us to discern otherwise obscured historical continuities between reproductive exploitation in the past and present, black feminism emerges as a privileged political heuristic for biocapitalist times. Indeed, works by Angela Davis, Darlene Clark Hine, Gayl Jones, Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, and others can be proleptically read as together comprising an extended, collaborative, and multigeneric meditation on enslaved women’s roles in what Du Bois called the “general strike” and thus as offering forward a “freedom dream” of pressing relevance.
Gendering the General Strike: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction and Black Feminism’s “Propaganda of History”
Alys Eve Weinbaum; Gendering the General Strike: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction and Black Feminism’s “Propaganda of History”. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 July 2013; 112 (3): 437–463. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2146395
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